By Ted Carter
SCORE, formerly the Service Corps of Retired Executives, has returned to mentoring small business owners and entrepreneurs in metro Jackson after a 12-year absence.
SCORE of Metro Jackson will operate from an office at the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership, 201 South President St., in Jackson. The new chapter held its installation Tuesday morning at the Chamber office.
“Metro Jackson is the largest business community in the state. It made sense that we do something in the metro area,” said Bobby Pamplin, a community development specialist with Jackson State University who co-chairs the new chapter along with Larry Butler.
The national organization once relied entirely on retired business people to provide mentoring. With today’s SCORE, a business owner or entrepreneur seeking assistance is just as likely to be helped by someone years away from retirement. “Anyone who is willing to volunteer” can serve as a mentor,” Pamplin said. “The majority of people in the Jackson chapter are working people.”
The Jackson chapter has reopened with a roster of about 45 volunteers, some of whom live in the Delta and will be assisting businesses there once a chapter is established for that region.
SCORE is continually seeking volunteers as qualified mentors, the organization said in a news release on the metro chapter’s reopening.
It’s an opportunity to connect with fellow business owners, and pass on business knowledge and expertise to the next generation of entrepreneurs, SCORE said.
“Part of SCORE’s role is to provide training to our volunteers as well,” Pamplin said. “I think sometimes you have to learn to listen, be non-judgmental and relate to that person.”
SCORE can help most any business, from a restaurant to a hair salon, said Mary Harris, associate state director and former nursing manager.
“It can even be a home-based business,” she said, and typically includes help writing a business plan.
SCORE will also refer clients to other organizations with which it collaborates, including the Mississippi Development Authority’s Entrepreneurial Center, Innovate Mississippi and the Small Business Administration.
“SCORE has everything down to a ‘T’ in helping you get started,” Harris said.
“Most of the time people come to us with an idea. The main thing is to find what they truly want to do, starting with a business plan.”
And if a specialty is needed, SCORE can call in someone with that specialty, Harris said.
Nationally, SCORE has counseled more than 10 million clients and last year alone assisted 56,000 businesses, according to Earl Heath, a retired information technology executive who lives in Montgomery, Ala., and heads SCORE’s Mississippi district.
“We’ve got about 13,000 mentors right now,” Heath of the organization’s national effort.
In recent years, SCORE has gone from counseling clients at the start-up phase to establishing a multi-year relationship with them, Heath said.
“The emphasis is on a lasting connection” that extends two to three years beyond the launch of a client business, he added.
The occupations of the volunteers in SCORE’s Montgomery chapter reflect how the business counseling organization has changed over the years. While Heath is retired, his chapter includes an intellectual property lawyer, a banker, a pair of CPAs, a marketing professional and two individuals who work in social media.
The variety of backgrounds helps to ensure broad frames of references among the chapter’s membership. So if someone comes in the door with the next “Pet Rock” type idea, he is not likely to be shuffled back out the door, Health said, referring to the 1970s marketing phenomenon that made its creator a millionaire in just six months.
“Some of us old sticks-in-the-mud, we don’t see what’s coming,” he said.